Filipino-Inspired Barbecue Pork Skewers
We love these ruffly little skewers for a whole bunch of reasons. They’re a nice addition to the summer barbecue playlist and our go-to pork recipes. (We love you pulled pork, but scoot over!) And, as we ease into post-Covid hangouts, skewers make individual portions simple. But most importantly, these pork skewers taste awesome — they’re basically happy hour magic.
Like many a barbecued meat, they get a lot of their goodness from the marinade, which is made with — wait for it — a full can of 7-UP! A little kitchen science for you: The pH of 7-UP is around 3.2. That’s less acidic than a lemon, for example, but acidic enough to break down the pork’s connective tissues, so it grills up super tender and juicy. For this recipe, we combine the 7-UP with brown sugar, garlic, soy sauce, ketchup, and lemon. On the grill, the soda and brown sugar help the marinade to caramelize, giving the pork a wonderful crust. The finished skewers have loads of depth — they’re a perfect balance of sweet, salty, smoky, and bright.
They’re also well-nigh irresistible dipped in the garlicky chile sauce, so even though it’s a few extra steps, don’t skip it. It’s got a little heat, a little vinegar, and plenty of garlicky swagger. It’s dynamite with the sweeter notes of the barbecued pork. In fact, we’d say it makes the dish.
In terms of that happy hour, these skewers will be delicious with cocktails, wine, or beer. That said, they’d also be amazing as the centerpiece of a light family meal on the patio. Leftovers? Pull the pork off the skewers and scatter it over a grain bowl.
For the barbecue pork skewers:
2 ½ lb pork shoulder
1 head garlic, peeled and minced
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup soy sauce
⅓ cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup ketchup
1 12-oz can 7-UP
Grapeseed oil, for brushing grill
Thinly sliced green onions, for garnish
For the basting sauce:
¼ cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup ketchup
For the vinegar-chile dipping sauce:
⅓ cup rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red long chile, stemmed and minced
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground Gelson’s black pepper
Special equipment: 20 bamboo skewers.
To make the barbecue pork skewers: Slice the pork into pieces: ¼” thick, 1” wide, and about 3” long.
In a large bowl, combine the garlic, lemon juice, soy sauce, dark brown sugar, and ketchup, and stir until the brown sugar is dissolved. Add the 7-UP and stir to combine. Add the pork pieces and mix until completely coated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or up to 24 hours.
Soak 20 bamboo skewers in water for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
To make the basting sauce: In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, dark brown sugar, and ketchup, and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
To make the vinegar-chile dipping sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the rice vinegar, garlic, red long chile, kosher salt, and black pepper. Set aside.
Thread the pork pieces onto the soaked skewers, placing 3 to 5 pieces on each stick.
Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Carefully brush grapeseed oil on the grates.
Grill the skewers, brushing each side with the basting sauce, and turning the skewers every 2 minutes until cooked through and charred, 6 to 8 minutes total.
Garnish the pork with green onions and serve hot with the vinegar-chile dipping sauce.
Recipe adapted from: Salu Salo